The General Accounting Office has taken strong exception to the Air Force's plans to spend $74 million on 144 gun pods for high-performance jet aircraft. The weapon in question is a four-barrel, 30-mm gun system that would be mounted on the outside of jets such as the F4, A7 and F16 and would be used to attack targets on the ground.

Two pods were tested in 1979, and in July, 1980, the Air Force signed a full-scale development contract to correct problems found in the tests. General Electric, the contractor, is to provide two new pods next January and two more in April, 1982, for further testing. But last August, with testing incomplete, the Air Force entered into a $32 million production contract for 40 pods, then followed it up in November by exercising an option for 104 more pods at $42 million.

Are that many untested weapons needed that soon, GAO is asking. About 70 percent of the anticipated production run is scheduled for assignment to the air national guard. Perhaps, GAO said, "the entire procurement ought to be reassessed."

The Pentagon said it would have no comment on GAO's criticism until it has studied the two-page letter more thoroughly. (GAO Letter B-205764, Dec. 16)